Movie Reviews

‘Dark Skies’: Close encounters of the wrong kind

By Travis WongMovies - 19 April 2013 11:00 AM | Updated 11:33 AM

‘Dark Skies’: Close encounters of the wrong kind

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Rating: 2 stars out of 5

When did aliens start becoming the bad guys? What happened to the cuddly guys like in ‘ET the Extra Terrestrial’ or the curious dudes in ‘Close Encounters’? These days, aliens just want to eat us or blow us up.

It's the bad sort that are the enemy in ‘Dark Skies’, a horror film that substitutes the gray alien dudes for ghosts. The only redeeming factor is that it boasts pretty strong performances from a cast helmed by Keri Russell of ‘Felicity’ fame. 

The Barretts are a family undergoing marital stress. Dad Daniel (Josh Hamilton) is jobless and the family is depending on Lacy's (Russell) paycheque. Meanwhile, their eldest son Jesse (Dakota Goyo) is struggling with puberty, and five-year old Sammy (Kadan Rockett) loves listening to scary stories. 

Something appears to be slipping into their house, raiding their fridge and later on, displays considerable skill in stacking the contents of their refrigerator. After beefing up security, it appears that the invaders are aliens intent on snatching their children away. 

Scott Stewart, who directed ‘Priest’ and ‘Legion’, has prepared a whole bunch of set pieces that appear to be lifted from other movies. He should be thankful that the cast do a good job of selling the limp story. When Lacy starts banging herself against a glass door, in the hands of a less competent actress the whole scene would look ridiculous. Right now, it's just laughable. 

There's also the appearance of Edwin, an expert on alien abductions, who passes off as the equivalent of an exorcist. He gives the Barretts information about why they're being targeted and the possible motives.

‘Dark Skies’ trailer

There's plenty of shaky camerawork to make you think that you're watching a found footage film, and overdone audio cues guide the film along. Stewart tries to channel Kubrick, particularly in a dream sequence that looks like a suburban version of ‘The Shining’, but while Kubrick knew how to layer his work Stewart just dumps out horror clichés, such as a scene where Daniel strips to his underwear and stands in the backyard screaming.

A subplot about Jesse and his crush falls apart, buried by these pesky domestic alien invaders. Why do the fiends want to send poor Lacy into a glass window? Considering how they stacked the refrigerator's contents like they were Lego bricks, maybe the aliens have the mental age of 4 year olds and it's fun to see Lacy behave like a remote controlled toy. 

Both Russell and Hamilton do their best to sell the idea that aliens would terrorise a family the same way that ghosts would, but ‘Dark Skies’ digs out the usual bunch of horror movie clichés from haunted house films. Stewart regurgitates common myths about outer space visitors, never daring to put in an original idea for fear it might wither and die.  

By the way, according to Edwin, high density housing is one way to keep the aliens away, so that means 90 per cent of Singaporeans and the contents of their refrigerators should be safe from the grey, oval-headed aliens. 

‘Dark Skies’ open in theatres on 18 April 2013


Travis Wong is a film loving geek who got his start from frequenting video shops in JB. He frequented movie theaters more often than school, and received his cinematic epiphany when he watched 'Taxi Driver'. While not driving a cab, he haunts DVD shops, and he currently has the largest remaining collection of VHS tapes and Laserdiscs in the country.